The Victorian Supernatural

The Fashionable Science of Parlour Magic / British Library, Public Domain Challenging the idea of the 19th century as one of secularisation, exploring the popularity of mesmerism, spiritualism and ‘true’ ghost stories in the period. By Dr. Roger Luckhurst / 05.15.2014 Professor of Modern Literature Birkbeck College University of London The 19th century is routinely thought[…]

Oracles and Models: Ancient and Modern Ways of Telling the Future

Heinrich Leutemann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons There’s a surprising amount in common between ancient ways of thinking about the future and the techniques we use now. By Dr. Esther Eidinow / 02.24.2018 Professor of Ancient History University of Bristol When something unexpected happens to us we still tend to ask “why me?” – and it’s difficult to know where to look for an[…]

Potions and Poisons: Tracing the ‘Witch’ and Practice of Magic to the Graeco-Roman World

The Oracle, 1880, Camillo Miola (Biacca). Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 x 56 1/4 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.PA.32 Our idea of an old witch making evil potions can be traced back to a more benign Greek origin (later morphed by the Romans). By Shelby Brown / 10.19.2015 Classical archaeologist and classicist Education Specialist for Academic and Adult Audiences[…]

The Horoscope of Iskander Sultan

This 19th century Sudanese drawing of an amulet includes spells against the ‘evil eye’. Wellcome Library reference: MS Arabic 21. By Dr. Nikolai Serikoff / 11.11.2016 Asian Collections Librarian Wellcome Library An exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, ‘Power and Protection‘, [last year] was “the first major exhibition to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic[…]

Defining the Demonic – Jacques Collin de Plancy’s ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’

Astaroth, from the 1863 edition of Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal / archive.org Although Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, a monumental compendium of all things diabolical, was first published in 1818 to much success, it is the fabulously illustrated final edition of 1863 which secured the book as a landmark in the study and representation of demons.[…]

How the God You Worship Influences the Ghosts You See

Gallowglass, CC BY-SA By Dr. Frank T. McAndrew / 10.25.2017 Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology Knox College If you’ve ever seen a ghost, you have something in common with 18 percent of Americans. But while there’s evidence that our brains are hardwired to see ghosts, the apparitions we see tend to vary. Historians who study and catalogue ghostly[…]